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Announcing the 2021 finalists for Best Country Song and Artist

Story Published Thursday 13 May 2021
2021 Country Music Awards Finalists

Today, APRA AMCOS NZ and Recorded Music New Zealand are proud to recognise the outstanding contributions to the Aotearoa country music scene from the past year.

The finalists for APRA Best Country Music Song are Tami Neilson for her track ‘Queenie, Queenie’, Delaney Davidson for ‘Sleep’ and Kendall Elise Todd for ‘Between Hello and Goodbye’.

The finalists for Recorded Music NZ Te Kaipuoro Tuawhenua Toa | Best Country Music Artist feature two previous winners and a newcomer to the scene - Jody Direen for Smokin’ Ashes, Ryan Fisherman for Vibe, and Tami Neilson for CHICKABOOM!

APRA Best Country Music Song

Alongside her nomination for Best Country Artist, Tami Neilson is also nominated for APRA Best Country Music song for the infectious ‘Queenie, Queenie’.

Joining Tami in 2021 is three-time winner of the APRA Best Country Music Song award Delaney Davidson for his song ‘Sleep’ (which was recorded by Tami for CHICKABOOM!).

No stranger to the awards, Delaney has made a name for himself as a staple of Aotearoa’s country music scene.

Along with relentless recording and performing, he has contributed as a producer to countless Kiwi albums for musicians like Troy Kingi and Marlon Williams.

Kendall Elise Todd is the third finalist for this year’s award for her song ‘Between Hello and Goodbye’.

Last year, Kendall Elise was a finalist for the Recorded Music New Zealand Best Country Artist, alongside Delaney Davidson and Barry Saunders, and Katie Thompson.

When her 2020 European tour was postponed due to COVID-19, Kendall used the time to write and record a new album, which is due out June this year.

APRA Head of NZ Operations Anthony Healey adds: "These songs get at the heart of what it means to be a country musician. A little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of that Southern flair, and a little bit of storytelling for good measure.”

Recorded Music NZ Best Country Artist

Since releasing her debut album five years ago, Jody Direen has been hard at work making waves in the country music scene both here and internationally.

After winning the Tūī for Best Country Music Artist in 2017 for her third album Shake Up, Jody has continued to record and tour – including supporting Kenny Rogers on his last New Zealand tour.

Christchurch multi-instrumentalist Ryan Chin began his musical career as the drummer for indie electronic act Doprah in 2013.

Since then, he has adopted the moniker Ryan Fisherman for his solo songwriting endeavours and released his debut solo album Vibe in May 2020.

Featuring over twenty Kiwi musicians including Marlon Williams, Candice Milner and Ben Wood, the album was recorded in Lyttelton by award-winning producer Ben Edwards.

Canadian-born songstress Tami Neilson grew up performing with her parents and her two brothers around North America as The Neilson Family Band.

Nominated for her 2020 album CHICKABOOM!, she has become a staple of the local country scene, picking up the APRA Silver Scroll and winning multiple Tūī including Best Country Album and Best Country Song.

Recorded Music NZ Kaiwhakahaere o Ngā Tohu Puoro o Aotearoa Sarah Owen says the finalists for this year’s Best Country Music Artist showcase the best the genre has to offer.

“After such a tumultuous year, it fills me with joy to be able to celebrate the wonderful artists creating such vibrant, emotionally-charged country waiata,” says Owen.

“If the calibre of these artists is anything to go by, it’s an exciting time to be a country music fan in Aotearoa.”

After being cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2021 Best Country Music Artist and Best Country Song winners will be announced as part of the Tussock Country Festival on Thursday 3rd June. Tickets available here

Finalists for APRA Best Country Music Song

  • Delaney Davidson – ‘Sleep’
  • Kendall Elise Todd – ‘Between Hello and Goodbye’
  • Tami Neilson – ‘Queenie, Queenie’

Finalists for Recorded Music NZ Te Kaipuoro Tuawhenua Toa | Best Country Music Artist

  • Jody Direen – Smokin’ Ashes
  • Ryan Fisherman – Vibe
  • Tami Neilson – CHICKABOOM!

Also announced at the Tussock Country Festival will be the winner of the annual MLT Songwriting Award.

The ten finalists are:

  • ‘Look But Don’t Touch’ – Marian Burns (Auckland)
  • ‘Gonna Turn’ – Nicky Moran (Hamilton)
  • ‘If You Were a Bird’ – Jenny Mitchell (Gore)
  • ‘Imperfect Lovers’ – Mia Jay (Napier)
  • ‘Trouble Finds a Girl’ – Jenny Mitchell (Gore), Tami Neilson (Auckland), Chris Wethey (Christchurch) and Tali Enjalas Jenkinson (Christchurch)
  • ‘Old Bones and New Strings’ – Carylann Martin (Otaki)
  • ‘Alexandra Road’ – Chad Robinson (Queenstown)
  • ‘What It Does’ – Thomas Young (Auckland) Dixie Dolejs (Auckland)
  • ‘Downsizing’ – Erin Reid (Pelican Waters, Australia)
  • ‘Tired as a Possum’ – Ron Mitchell (Gore)

Jeff Rea, Chairman of the NZ Country Music Awards Committee says: “I’m amazed at the ever increasing standard of songs entered in the MLT NZ Songwriting Award and this year with close to record high entries of 117, we can’t wait to hear the top 10 finalists perform their song on the theatre stage.”